Profile of an Imagineer: Xavier Atencio

How did a shy animator come to write some of the most recognizable lyrics in all of Disney World? According to Xavier "X" Atencio, "Walt had an uncanny ability of finding talent in these people that we didn't know we had ourselves."

This was dramatically true in the case of animator, imagineer, and Disney Legend Xavier Atencio. Known by his colleagues as X, Atencio had a hand in some of the most famous and popular Disney attractions, including Space Mountain, the Haunted Mansion, and Pirates of the Caribbean (yep -- he wrote the song!). But that certainly wasn't the future he'd dreamed of as a student...

Making a Name as an Animator
Born September 4, 1919 in Walsenburg, Colorado, Xavier Atencio moved to Los Angeles in 1937 to attend Chouinard Art Institute. There, he was convinced by the instructors to submit his profile to Walt Disney Studios. And after serving in the U.S. Army Air Corps in World War II, Atencio returned to the Studios, receiving his first screen credit for "Toot, Whistle, Plunk, and Boom," which won an Academy Award.

In addition to animated shorts, he helped animate titles and sequences in Disney live-action films such as "The Parent Trap", "Babes in Toyland", and "Mary Poppins."

The Move to WED Enterprises
But In 1965, Atencio was asked by Walt himself to make the move to WED Enterprises (Disney Imagineering).

According to Atencio, when he first showed up at WED Enterprises no one knew why he was there (and he didn't either). He was first assigned to work with Claude Coats on the Primeval World diorama, but after a few weeks he was called by Walt and assigned to write the script for Pirates of Caribbean...and the rest is history! Atencio developed dialogue and wrote music for attractions such as Adventures through Space, the Haunted Mansion, and of course the Pirates of the Caribbean.

Working on The Florida Project
He continued to work with Disney contributing to the Walt Disney World attractions If You Had Wings, Space Mountain, Spaceship Earth, World of Motion, and the Mexico Pavilion.

After spending 47 years working for the Walt Disney Company, Atencio retired in 1984. He was named a Disney Legend in 1996.

What's Your Favorite X Atencio Attraction or Film? Let us know in the comments below!

Savannah wrote on Sun, 06/19/2011 - 04:42:

Savannah's picture

Definitely Pirates of the Caribbean!

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